One billion people, one behaviour?

By Nishtha Singh

Generalisation at its best can be noticed in Indian stereotypes and it needs to reduce. Can one of the largest world populations act in a uniform way despite having different climates, food, dance, clothing and religion?

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Children in a slum area in Taratala, Kolkata, India. Credits: Brett Cole

Do Indians love dancing? Yes, in fact, no Bollywood movie is complete without an Indian dance and all Indians enjoy a good party song. It could be surprising to know that every Indian doesn’t like spicy food! It is preferred in northern colder regions to retain body heat but India has multiple climate ranges.

To the outside world, all Indians are stereotyped as vegetarian, religious, conservative and a nation with poverty showcased on the roads. Sorry to break it to you but that’s not all India! All one billion people experience diversity in every field. Within every 200 kilometers distance, the food, language, dialect and clothes worn are different. I am here to un-stereotype Indians all around the world.

The famous ‘Indo English accent’ is something talked and joked about ad nauseum. I have lived in three different countries and faced the same stereotype. Every! Single! Time! The funniest part is when Indians try to sound like imitators, they are actually mocking the imitators and not themselves. I have never met an Indian who stresses on every alphabet of a word. A BBC travel blogger, Charukesi Ramadurai identified another stereotype – the great nod. He has heard many names for it including the Indian head wobble, bobble, waggle or the headshake. In normal parlance, people nod left to right for stating a no and top to down to confirm a yes. However, most Indian’s nod only goes top to down as a mark of respect and does not indicate blind agreement.

India has 22 languages and 29 states with all different dances, foods, and cultures. Once I visited an Indian restaurant and was straight away asked. “So you will have masala dosa, idli sambar today right?”. I was probably darker for the perception of North Indians. I love all of that food but that it is not my all time preference. A South Indian is unlikely to have the same breakfast and lunch as me, a North Indian. I prefer that butter chicken.

In a conversation, ‘they’ always ask: “So you speak Hindu right?”. A population of 1.3 billion cannot be categorized to be ‘speaking Indian’ or ‘speaking Hindu’. India has 22 national languages. Hindi is just one of them.

I have been classified to be ‘Hindu’ many times because I was Indian but many should know that India is actually a secular nation: it accepts and follows a number of religions and does not discriminate against any. The number of mosques, temples, and churches don’t define the ‘dominant’ religion and no party endorses that.

Many address this sensitive stereotype regarding the relationship with Pakistan. The projection by the Pews Research Centre reported that by 2050, India would be home to the largest Muslim population (overtaking Indonesia). This was brought to light by Ritu Sharma working at ORF.  Today, India has the third highest Muslim population but is still accused to be ‘attacking Muslims in Pakistan’ – a neighboring Muslim country. Indians don’t hate Pakistanis for their nationality. The conflict has occurred because of political actions and not because of their sole nationality or religion. The deep hate commenced during the independence but today, that doesn’t interfere with every individual’s life. Both nations proudly conduct meetings to adhere to rules and regulations regarding their relationship.

There are many Indians out there who are trying to change perspectives. A famous editor: Vani Munjal also noticed another stereotype: all Indians being poor but happy. She identifies the common theme in Slumdog Millionaire and Hymn for the Weekend; the slums and happy kids running around. She educated many by highlighting that the majority of the population remains in the middle class, but the richest of the richest also live in India. A Washington Post article written by Joanna Slater reports that the poverty rates have decreased by 5% in the last decade which is a great indicator to show the economy’s progress.

So next time you interact with Indians, try to keep the stereotypes aside and explore their individual personality. Feel free to ask them questions about India but don’t generalize their traits. I lived in India for almost five years and during this time, I was constantly surrounded by my brown parents and family who never discriminated within themselves. With India being so large in area and population, it acts as a continent of its own. Diversity is the strength of the nation but calls for multiple stereotypes. I am proud to say that I am Indian; I sometimes nod my head in a circular fashion, I don’t speak all 22 languages and I can’t stand spicy food. This all doesn’t define my nationality and once again I’m just a normal Indian who can shake a leg on any song.

 

Works Cited:

  1. Sharma, Ritu. “ The Undoing of India’s Unity in Diversity?” Observer Research Foundation, ORF, 10 Aug. 2017, www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/undoing-india-unity-in-diversity/.
  2. Ramadurai, Charukesi. “Cracking India’s Mystifying ‘Nod Code’.” BBC, BBC, 23 July 2018, www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180722-cracking-indias-mystifying-nod-code.
  3. Manjul, Vani. “ 10 Stereotypes All Indians Hate.” The Culture Trip, 8 Aug. 2017, https://theculturetrip.com/asia/india/articles/10-stereotypes-all-indians-hate/.   
  4. Slater, Joanna. “ India Is No Longer Home to the Largest Number of Poor People in the World. Nigeria Is.” Washington Post, 10 July 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/07/10/india-is-no-longer-home-to-the-largest-number-of-poor-people-in-the-world-nigeria-is/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e24bbaac4487.
  5. Cole, Brett. “Children in a Slum Area in Taratala, Kolkata, India.” Brett Cole Photography, www.brettcolephotography.com/media/e66b819b-2772-4d23-8613-bccd5ce2325c-children-in-a-slum-area-in-taratala-kolkata-india.